Media Freedom Linked to Wealth Creation and Prosperity, says AfDB Chief

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Freedom of the press and the media in Africa is essential for the economic future of Africa.

That was the message that the president of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, gave in his address at the opening of the Fourth African Media Leaders Forum (AMLF) on 10 November 2011 in Tunis.

This year’s theme was ‘Empowering citizens through social media and technology adaptation: what future for traditional media?’

Some 350 media owners and operators from 48 African countries attended the event.

Mr Kaberuka emphasized the importance of freedom for the media to report without fear or censorship for wealth creation and successful business.  He said without it there was a danger of ‘crony capitalism’,
A free press comes hand in hand with democracy, and Mr Kaberuka said the advances in democracy in Africa, which had been steady but uneven since the early 1990s, had coincided with economic advances.

By contrast, Africa’s ‘lost decade’, marked by one-party states and military rule, had witnessed growth in prosperity.

The African Development Bank itself would contribute to increased transparency, said Mr Kaberuka.  He announced that the institution would revise its rules on freedom of information, widening its scope even further.

Tunisia’s prime minister, Mr Beji Caid Essebsi, also gave an opening address, remarking on the country’s recent revolution, which has resulted in more open media.  He said: "The Tunisian spring is on track to achieve good governance and democracy."  He added: "Since the advent of democracy the press is free in Tunisia, which now has more than 140 private publications."

The AMLF is organised by the African Media Initiative (AMI), which brings together private media proprietors on the continent. Its chief executive officer, Amadou Mahtar Ba, said that AMI membership has grown from 55 in 2008 to the current figure of 350.